Here it is, the last chapter of Inked. It's a little longer than usual, seeing as it's the last and I wanted to get everything in without driving it out into two chapters.
"Oi, oi, Yankumi," Shin prompted as he shifted his shoulder against Yankumi's weight and tried to jostle her awake. He'd not minded when she curled up against his shoulder on the sofa, far from it, but she did have a tenancy to drool when she actually fell asleep. "Don't fall asleep, you'll miss the end of the movie."
"Seen it already," she mumbled drowsily, settling herself better in the curve of his shoulder and sighing, completely at ease.
"Well stay awake anyway," he insisted. "I wanna talk to you about some stuff before we go to bed."
She picked her head off his shoulder in curiosity. "What?" she said, sounding slightly worried, or perhaps just confused.
"Uh." Shin scratched his cheek with his free arm a little awkwardly. "I wanted to just... look, we can talk about it after the film is ov-" he broke off as Yankumi insistently reached out and stopped the DVD.
"It's over," she proclaimed, and sat up properly. "What is it?"
"Well... you know I graduate next year," he began, and she nodded. "The thing is... I'm probably gonna be... sharing a cup with your Grandfather pretty soon after then." He winced, expecting Yankumi to explode or blow up at him in some way, but to his surprise she didn't say anything for a while, and instead settled herself against his side again.
"Oh...I know," she said quietly, and for once it was Shin who was stunned that she knew what he'd been thinking.
"You do?" he burst. "I thought..."
"I'm not stupid, Shin," she said calmly. "I have watched you getting closer to them all this time. I've heard the rumours and seen the way everyone there regards you. It's not really a surprise."
"Aren't you pissed!" he gaped. She had been so furiously opposed to his having anything to do with the Kuroda group that he simply couldn't believe she was really this calm.
"Well I was," she confessed. "But... well, you know Grandpa is getting old now, and his health isn't what it used to be. When I think about it, I'm... kind of scared of what would happen to everyone if he were to suddenly..." she broke off, not wanting to say she feared for his life in case she somehow cursed it to be true. She clung to Shin a little closer, and he tightened his arm instinctively around her in return.
"I know Kyou and Wakamatsu can handle things for a while, but it's not a long term solution," she explained. "There'll have to be a Yondaime sooner or later, and the godawful truth is that..." she paused for breath, while Shin held his, "you're the person I think we could trust with something like that. I mean, what I mean is..." she rushed, "if it was anyone else I'd be certain they'd do everything wrong and run Grandpa's legacy into the ground, but if it were you then I'd feel like things would definitely be all right in the end." She paused, unclenching her fist from where it had balled tightly in his shirt. "Does that make any sense?" she asked timidly.
"Yeah," he replied shortly, still overwhelmed by the response she'd given him. "I'm just a bit shocked, I hadn't thought even you would be thinking like this too."
"I know it's too much to put on a youngster like you," she admitted with a sigh, although she'd had plenty of time to come around by now.
"Well I've encouraged it," he replied. "Haven't I? I mean I haven't actually said I'll trot along and become the Yondaime, but I never said I wouldn't."
"That doesn't mean you've said yes though," she pointed out. "You could still get away."
"I don't want to get away," he responded. "If this is what's required of me then I am willing. It's still all a long way off, and anything could happen between now and then, so I'm not saying anything's in stone, but... I know what the first step is, and I do want to take it. Just to see if I can."
"You can," she immediately answered his unasked question. "You basically ran your class didn't you? You've had one foot in the door of Kuroda since you finished high school. And what's more..." She moved again so she was face to face with Shin.
"I love you." Shin thought that by now she'd lost that ability to make his heart feel like it was backflipping on stilts, but evidently that was not the case, because for a moment there he had to remind himself to breath properly. She continued as if she'd barely said anything, "You know as well as I do the tradition of the leadership." Oh yes, he knew all too well. "So... you know," she mumbled, "you're bound to do okay. It's meant to be."
Shin closed his eyes for a moment and tried to take the moment in. It wasn't every day you realized that you'd consigned yourself to becoming the next leader of a Yakuza group with one of the most powerful names in the underworld. That you were going to live as a criminal, a gangster, and you were half the age of the men who were supposed to work under you. Hell knows it wasn't going to be a normal arrangement, but he had a strange sense that it was going to work out one way or another.
It just seemed written... orinked, even, like a tattoo upon some cosmic creature's skin.
"You know, I think we should leave all this heavy leadership talk behind," he said afresh, closing his arm around her body and drawing her closer to him. "I'd rather talk about this being the first time you've actually said you love me." He tried not to laugh as Yankumi went spectacularly pink.
"Y-you know I... do," she muttered, and her lips felt as if they were genuinely burning when Shin leaned forwards and pressed his against them.
"You haven't said it before," he pointed out. "I never pushed you because I knew you'd get there eventually, but it's nice to have finally hear you say it out loud." He had told her he was in love with her years ago – right when they started going out. He would be a liar to say that it hadn't bothered him at all since then, but he'd always kept his tongue because he had to give her time to work it out for yourself.
"S-sstupid," she stammered. "You could've asked."
"Asking takes away the point," he told her. "You should say it because you want to, not because I want you to."
"Well I do... did... whatever," she babbled. "I l-... I love you, Sawada Shin. You happy now?"
"Hell yeah," he replied with a grin to match, and then before the conversation could carry on any further he kissed her properly, and then one thing – as it was prone to do – inevitably lead to another.
In the end, it was just a few months before Shin's graduation from University – with a top class degree in (mostly criminal) Psychology – that it was finally accepted at last that the young Red Lion would become a part of the Kuroda group officially. Sure, very little changed at first, but eventually he became drawn further and further into the criminal world of the Yakuza. Yankumi wasn't sure she liked it, but it was Shin's life to lead and he had made his choice – she was not his teacher any more, but his partner, and that meant she couldn't tell him what to do any more than he could tell her.
That said, it couldn't have been more than three months after his Graduation – also his initiation – that Shin had his first spot of trouble. It was bad enough that Shinohara had to be called in.
Also enough, for that matter, for Shinohara to storm into Yankumi's room first thing in the morning with the knowledge that Shin would most likely be in there too, which he was.
"What the hell have you done now?" Shinohara burst in a less-than pleasant waking call. Shin, lying on his front, with one heavily tattooed arm thrown over Yankumi's stomach, moaned groggily and flipped over. "Sawada!" Shinohara barked. "Do you want to go to prison?"
"What? What?!" he shot, bolting up in bed and glaring at the lawyer in shock. "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the word on the street being that you murdered the son of the Zabu-group's leader last night!" Shinohara blazed. "It was all I could do to keep your father from storming this place at dawn with half the police force behind him."
Shin blinked several times, and beside him Yankumi stirred, although at first she just rolled over and mumbled something like 'five more minutes'.
"What? Murdered?" Shin echoed. "I didn't kill anyone last night."
"That kid is in a dumpster at the end of the street," Shin groaned lazily. "I knew he wasn't strong enough to lift the lid from inside."
"You... you... Wait... I passed that on the way over..." Shinohara said suspiciously. "I thought it was odd that a dumpster should have bricks on top of it."
Shin gave him what could only be described as a guilty smirk, but it was ruined when Yankumi punched Shin in the ribs from where she lay.
"Ow, woman!" Shin snapped. "It was just a joke!" Tetsuo and Minoru, who had been lurking outside to eavesdrop peered inside, and Shinohara gave them a quick nod that suggested they go and fetch the poor victim of Shin's bad sense of humour before the police did come to take him away.
"Jeese," Shin muttered sourly, the morning beginning to bite into him. "You stick one punk in a dumpster and people think you're a murderer."
"Welcome to the Yakuza, baby," Yankumi slurred sarcastically from beside him. "It's people thinking the worst of you for the rest of your life."
"Oh don't you start," he retorted. "I've not got the energy for morning sex so behave yoursle- OW!" he yelped as she punched him again, and a rather feisty look replaced drowsiness in Shin's eyes.
"Look, the kid is as far as I know alive and well... in garbage," Shin told Shinohara bluntly. "He wasn't dead when I left him, and if he is now it's nothin' to do with me. So if you wouldn't mind..." he trailed off suggestively and looked pointedly at the door, and Shinohara wasn't quite sure what to do with himself .
He didn't exactly want to just skip out on Shin's orders, but on the other hand it wasn't exactly comfortable being in Yankumi's bedroom while Shin was actually occupying the same bed... and looked like he was about to start something with her, which would account for the hasty dismissal.
"Shiiiiinnnooohara senseiiiii!" came a great roar from outdoors, as Tetsuo and Minoru returned dragging a rather smelly youth between the two of them. "We found him! He was sleeping like a baby and stinks something rotten!" Shinohara paced out to the hallway and glanced down at the party of three.
"So he's alive?"he questioned.
"Alive as you or me," Tetsuo replied, and Shinohara gave Shin a foreboding look before stepping outside fully and closing the door. He tried not to twitch as he heard a loud creaking from behind him and some muffled sounds and squealing. He knew it wasn't as if Shin and Kumiko were trying to flaunt their relationship in front of him, because he was aware that they'd been dating for something over three years now, so it was hardly a novelty any more.
He'd realized that he just had to accept this was the way things had worked out – so uncomfortable for him or not, he had to live with it. Sure, he sometimes thought about what might have been if he'd realized earlier that he didn't want to leave the Kuroda Group, and if Kumiko could've been his and not Shin's, but that wasn't the way it went. Anything but acceptance was just fantasy, because Shin was no more likely to let Kumiko go than pigs were to fly; it was obvious to everyone that he practically worshipped her.
Inside the room Shinohara left behind, a still-sleepy Yankumi was struggling irately against Shin, who had more or less pounced on her as soon as Shinohara shut the door, and was now pinning her to the mattress by her wrists.
"I thought you said you weren't in the mood," she reminded him as he leant down on top of her and started to kiss her jaw and neck playfully; although, occasionally he bit her instead, as it seemed to bring him some kind of amusement.
"I'm not," he replied between mouthfuls. "I can still be nice to you, though"
"Nice," she scoffed, shoving him back, "Gerroff," she barked, and then sat up to rub the sleep from her eyes. "What a morning," she moaned, thinking over her lesson plans for school that day. Most of the time if Shin was around hers, which was more often that not these days, she just left him in bed. This was a more unpleasant (and confusing) awakening than most.
"Don't blame me," he replied.
"Who else should I blame?" she retorted. "You're the one who caused trouble."
"That punkstarted it with me first," Shin said in defence. "I just caught him lurking around here yesterday evening when I went out with that bastard dog."
'That bastard dog' was fast becoming Fuji's common use name, thanks to Shin's influence in the house, and much to Yankumi's disdain.
"He looked suspicious so I asked him what he was up to, and then he suddenly went nuts, yelling about he was the son of the Zabu Kumichou and he was gonna 'take me down', and that was before he started waving around a steak knife," Shin continued to narrate, but then broke off fairly swiftly with the conclusion. "So I just bricked him in the dumpster."
Yankumi gave him a tired look, to which he simply shrugged and responded, "Trash with the trash."
"You could have fought him honestly," she pointed out righteously. "It's not manly to avoid a proper fight."
"I did fight him," Shin reiterated. "I only threw him in there after I'd knocked him down and tried to walk away once already. He'd started chasing me and wouldn't stop waving that fucking knife about, it was pissing me off." She sighed loudly and dragged herself up – unlike some she had a proper job to go to.
"Well it's your reputation," she huffed, getting up and changing out of her bedclothes, not missing that Shin had remained seated upright specifically to watch her undressing. "Pervert," she bandied.
"I said I'm not in mood," he said once more; he was still plenty satisfied from last night, and had no desire to suffer for the rest of the day from exhaustion or a sex coma. He'd done it before and it was not pleasant, especially when he would get tormented for it all day by the rest of the guys.
"You just look best naked," he explained matter-of-factly. Some people looked better with clothes on, but Yankumi was the reverse. Without frumpy t-shirts or tracksuits, or, indeed, any clothes, her body was totally revealed for the fantastic form it was – especiallyher irezumi, and her unbound hair only adding to the impact.
Clothes covered up the body and its imperfections, and as far as Shin ever saw she had none. So. Naked it was.
"Pshhh," she scoffed, covering up the embarrassment with flattery that never got any better even after several years with Shin. He was almost twenty-three now, which was a slightly worrying thought. Almost as worrying as the fact that she was twenty-eight.
"Oi," he catcalled as she headed towards the door. "I'm awake now, you've got no excuse not to say goodbye."
"Well get up yourself!" she retorted, and to her surprise he did. Even now he was just as lazy as he'd ever been, god forbid he ever try to hold down a regular job.
"Okay, okay," he droned, grabbing a handful of clothes and a towel under one arm. "I'll go out for a run or something." He wasn't out of shape by any means, but that was no excuse now that he was part of the Kuroda household. In fact, to ever get to the level of Kyou or Wakamatsu he needed to be training several times a week at least, not including the exercise he got getting into any trouble on the streets.
"I'll see you to Shirokin," he added before he disappeared off to shower, not even allowing her time to protest or claim she was taking the bus – she did wear exercise clothes to work, so it wasn't like the run would be ill suited to her outfit either.
He was ready by the time she had finished her breakfast, and their 'jog' to Shirokin ended up a no-blows-held race, which Yankumi triumphantly won in spite of Shin's best efforts to throw her off every way he could. He was about stronger than she was now, but she was still much faster. He never dared to spar with her because he strongly disliked having his ass handed to him by her – not because he disliked losing to a woman or his girlfriend on principle, but because she never fucking shut up about it afterwards.
Somewhat to Yankumi's surprise, it turned out that Shin and Shinohara got on rather well most of the time, once the latter had accepted the situation between her and Shin and it had ceased to become something to raise tensions. The only thing that did raise tensions was after Shin had been named Kuroda Ryuichro's protégée officially, which was a month or two after he turned 25 and was seen to be of an acceptable age to be tipped for Yondaime.
The problem was that while Shin had a great deal of respect for all of the men of the Kuroda network, he would call them out if he thought they were about to make a terrible mistake, even Kyou or Wakamatsu, and while they would be happy to accept the criticism if it was proven to be well founded, Shinohara did not consider himself... intellectually on the same level as them, and if Shin tried to call him out there was always hell to pay.
"Do not condescend to me, Sawada," Shinohara threatened viciously on one such occasion. "You are not a laywer, you do not know the law."
"I don't need to know the fucking law to know you're overreacting," Shin fired back. "If you let it go to court it's gonna make even more of a mess than it is already. If you let the Chief and me go around and shake Suzuki up a bit then we can hush this whole thing up without it coming to that."
"All that is going to do is bring witness intimidation charges against you and make my job even harder," Shinohara retorted.
"If we go to court at all we're fucked," Shin pointed out. "Kyou doesn't need another prison sentence, and I'd quite like to stay out of it too, for that matter."
"Ah, so you believe that I cannot protect the Kuroda group?" the lawyer accused victoriously.
"I don't think you can save this one, no," Shin replied, "largely because we did it. If we go to court they will bring up all the evidence and prove that we did it. If we rough up Suzuki then all that evidence can find itself in a fire by tomorrow night, and his backers will drop the charges."
"Sawada-!" Shinohara yelled, but before he could continue Shin had stood up and thrown back the chair he'd been lounging in so hard it crashed into the wall and then fell over. He strode up to the desk Shinohara did most of his work at and pounded his hands down on the top very aggressively.
"I'm not asking you not to start the court proceedings," Shin said very carefully, his voice drenched in hidden threats, "I am telling you not to."
"Then you are speaking well out of line," Shinohara rebuffed haughtily. "You are not in a position to give orders around here."
"If you spoke to the boss or Kyou they would say the same thing!" Shin blasted. "But Kyou has pissed off out and the Boss is in the fucking hospital." Ryuichiro was unwell again, but thankfully he was going to make a full recovery this time; although, he would have to take it very easy once he was discharged.
By now the yelling, and particularly the chair being thrown across the room, had woken up Yankumi who had been dozing on a couch a few doors down in the compound, and she wandered in to see what the fuss was about.
"What's all this?" she questioned wearily as she slumped in the door, and received fiery looks from both men in the room.
"Do you want me to go to prison!" Shin asked her crossly, and as Shinohara tried to object Shin whipped around his head and gave the older man a glare that genuinely made him hesitate.
"What?" Yankumi murmured. "What?" she repeated as the words sunk in.
"If this guy pushes through this court case instead of letting us settle the issue outside of the law, then you can say goodbye to seeing me or Kyou for the next three years." He shot another look at Shinohara. "At least."
"What the fuck did you do?" she screamed.
"We're Yakuza, Love," Shin pointed out patiently. "The question is what don't we do."
"Well... what's the situation?" she questioned tensely, stepping further into the room and appealing to Shinohara, who repeated the argument he'd made to Shin about witness intimidation, claiming that the backers wouldn't drop the charges no matter what.
"The problem is you think everything can be settled correctly through the court," Shin argued. "This can't. Well, it can, but the 'correct' conclusion puts me behind fucking bars and lets the scumbags against us get a filthy hand into the Kuroda money to boot." He leant over the desk again and raised a hand to point at Shinohara. "Give me a day, one fucking day and I will go and settle this. The case will never make it to a clerk, let alone a prosecutor."
Shin was no longer a 'kid' to be ignored now. He was older than Yankumi was when she started teaching at Shirokin, the named successor to Ryuiciro – with a full irezumi of his own, bearing his nickname in the form of a bloody great lion face across his entire back – and most of all, he really wasn't someone you wanted to fuck with, unless you were the singular exception of his girlfriend.
Yankumi herself was now looking at Shinohara pleadingly. She didn't want to take sides, but...
"It's just one day, Sensei," she pointed out. "If he gets himself in even more trouble then he'll just get longer in prison and you'll be right." She ignored Shin's increasingly pissed attitude towards her with that remark. "If not, then it saves you the hassle of trying to win a bad case."
"It's a gamble," Shin remarked. "They don't teach you it at a law school." Shinohara nearly snapped at Shin, but Yankumi got there first.
"Shin don't be a prick," she snarled, and Shin was forced to bite his lip. "Just go out and do what you have to do," she said with an exhausted sigh – being around these two when they were having a run in was the most tiring thing she knew. Neither argued with anyone else in the family even half as badly as they did with each other – and then when they were in agreement, no one stood a chance against them.
"Fine, so long as he can give me his word he'll cover until tomorrow," Shin insisted, and with a cajoling look from Yankumi Shinohara relented.
"Fine," Shinohara parroted, falling back into his own chair with a 'thwump' and started thumbing through papers angrily. Shin turned his back and stormed out, with Yankumi hot on his heels.
"Hey," she called out when he didn't stop for her. "Shin!" He whirled around to face her just as he reached the door, his expression less than balanced, but not showing any anger directly toward her just yet.
"What?" he snapped, and caught her fist in his hand when she tried to throw a light punch at him – a known medium of communication for her.
"Calm the fuck down," she told him. "You can't go out with a hot head like that, you're going to do something stupid."
"The only stupid thing that was gonna be done tonight you thankfully managed to stop," he replied. "I'm going to save my and Kyou's skin." He hunched up his shoulders once or twice, flexing his arms inside his shirt sleeves; he'd be needing them.
"And you think going alone is a smart idea?" she hissed. "Get real." She had grabbed a jacket off the rack in the hall before Shin had time to realize what she was doing, and stopped her at the door.
"Oh no," he threatened. "You're not coming."
"Well you're not going alone," she retorted. "I want to see you dead about as much as I want to see you in prison, so I'm coming."
Shin loitered for a moment, obviously thinking it over before finally giving in. "Fine," he huffed. "But you stay out of the way unless I do get into trouble, okay? That baldy at Shirokin is pretty lenient, but getting your ass hung up to dry in court ain't gonna be something he can excuse."
"Yeah, yeah," she groaned, shoving him out of the door with an exasperated sigh. "I do know the routine, actually." Shin let himself be pushed along, but halted suddenly at the gates of the Kuroda compound.
"Then there's just one thing left to do," he said insistently.
"What?" She looked about bemusedly – she didn't think she'd left anything.
"Kiss for luck," he answered suavely, the words barely snatching the time to be heard before he grabbed and kissed the living hell out of her. "Uhh," he gasped after she stopped indulging him and pulled away. "Let's get this done quick," he requested hastily as he let his arms fall from around her and started off walking down the street.
"Why's that?" Yankumi asked, although she had a pretty clear idea why.
"Because the faster we're done there the faster we can be at my place," he answered plainly, and Yankumi had to resist asking anything else. Shin still had the same apartment he'd always had, although it had been bought by the Kuroda group when his father had found out his son was a gangster, and while it got some other use as a half-way house or a safe place to lay low at, its prime use by them was the kind of sex that you didn't want to anyone you knew in the same building when you were having it.
The rough and notably loudkind of sex. It was evident then that Shin wasprettypumped if that was the plan for the rest of the night... notthat she was complaining.
Shinohara had overheard enough of their conversation on the way out to know that Kumiko had insisted on going with Shin to ruin his life, so he was doubly worried on her behalf now as well. Unfortunately he also knew it was unlikely the couple would come back here after doing what they had to do, so there'd be no way of knowing how it went until they showed their faces again tomorrow. They could be having sex or dead, and he'd have no way to tell.
He sighed and reluctantly started to get down to the work he'd been persuaded into doing, steeling himself for the next day, which wasn't going to be an easy day's work by any rate; although, it would be less work if Shin's gamble paid off and the case never made it to court. Not that Shinohara thought it'd work.
However, on this occasion he had been wrong, because after that night the whole thing simply vanished, which he suspected Kumiko's presence had an awful lot to do with, because anyone with one ear to the gangster world knew that while the Red Lion was no one to be trifled with, if Kuroda's Ojou was with him as well they really meant trouble. A Lion and Lioness, just like their tattoos.
While his spirit was still as strong as ever, it had to be accepted that the Dragon Ryuichiro Kuroda's body was not what it used to be, and his retired management had to retreat even further into being a ghost leadership over the next few years, with his consultation or action being required only for the most extreme circumstances. The acting boss was Kyou, but all outsiders understood the Kuroda inner circle was a a tightly knit group of which each member was as important and had as much say as the other.
There were upheavals from time to time, however, usually when Ryuichiro had a bout of winter flu or some other small, non-fatal complaint. He wasn't intending to die any time soon, but he wasn't going to live long if he carried on being the boss of the group, so he just enjoyed his unofficial retirement.
One such shake-up occurred when Ryuichiro had in fact gone on a hot springs spa holiday to a health clinic in Hokkaido, but some fool said that he had gone to a hospice to die. Some of the more rebellious and unfaithful branches to the Kuroda syndicate were persuaded to take a stand against them with the backing of their main opponents, and it came to a head when a crack team of the strongest men from the combined forces came to confront the apparently 'leaderless' Kuroda.
Yamaguichi Kumiko had been marking another year's worth of truly dismal math papers when Shin almost kicked the door in.
"Yankumi!" he panted, his breath fast and expression worried. "Get up, get up! Opponents of the house have rallied a gang of at least fifty, they're on their way now! We've got to cut them off."
"WHAT?" she screamed, scrambling to her feet and bounding over to him. "What do they want?" she exclaimed.
"Some scum's said that the boss has gone up north to die," Shin explained as he grabbed her arm and they began to run towards the house entrance where the rest of the guys were waiting.
"They did! But Grandpa's gone to the hot spa!" she wailed, the topic of her grandfather's death still the fasted known way to reduce her to tears.
"I know that, but that's not the word out," Shin replied. "Zabu house and a few of our other enemies have rallied a fighting squad based on that rumour, and have boiled up some ridiculous notion of wiping us out while our leader is down." At the door now, they joined the rest of the Kuroda men, and Kyou snorted loudly at the parts of Shin's speech that he overheard.
"Pigs!" he barked furiously. "We will teach them a lesson in doubting the Kuroda name!"
"Damn right!" Yankumi bellowed in return, almost frog jumping over Shin as she rushed forwards to hold her fist up triumphantly with Kyou.
"Calm down," Shin scolded. "We're not there yet."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Yankumi yelled, and then beating her fist up in the direction of the street charged out, followed by the rest of the family whooping and cheering. Shin brought up the back, mostly laughing at the fantastic display she was leading. At least they'd make a big entrance this way.
It turned out that fifty had been an optimistic estimate, and there were at least ten more than that, although numbers had never put off the maniacs who ran the Kuroda before, and Shin had gone and thrown himself in head first with them, so he was going to run with the best of them.
An hour or so later, the last gang member fell, and the triumphant but battle-worn Kuroda elite stood victoriously in a circle. Shin slumped to the ground and caught his breath; he was still the weakest fighter among them, and while he didn't do any worse in terms of the battle, he was rather more exhausted afterwards. He wondered if he could get Yankumi to carry him home, and then decided that would be pushing it a bit too much.
"Oh god," he groaned, his face sinking into his hands as no more than a minute after the last thug hit the floor Kyou and Yankumi had merrily started stacking them up.
"Do we sort them by group?" Yankumi questioned.
"I'm doin' em by colour," Kyou replied, tossing a man in a green shirt onto a pile of similarly green-clad men.
"Are you really going to do this?" Shin questioned weakly, wincing a second time as he observed Wakamatsu, Tetsuo and Minerou going to join in.
"Don't be a sourpuss, Shin," Yankumi told him. "Why don't we sort them in terms of size?"
"What you mean start with the big ones at the bottom and work up?" Wakamatsu suggested.
"Hey, we could build a tower!" Kyou said excitedly.
Shin slowly got to his feet again, scrubbing the dried blood from his chin – someone had bust open his lip – and stumbled over towards them. Yankumi, obviously taken with the idea of a tower, had gone for the biggest guy of the lot, and was rather unsuccessfully trying to drag him along by his feet.
"Here," Shin said, shouldering her aside and grabbing one leg for himself. "I'll give you a hand."
"Ha!" she laughed. "See, it's not so bad, is it?"
"It's ridiculous," Shin stated, and then after a pause added, "but... so is the rest of it. What choice do I have?" Yankumi chuckled fondly, and reached over to ruffle his hair, which he still maintained in its assaulting shade of red.
"You're still a brat," she sniggered.
"Brat," he scoffed. "I'm going to be fuckin' thirty in a few years now. I don't know when I got so old."
"Oh relax, thirty's not old," she told him, several years past that margin already.
"Still," he said, as they finally succeeded at bringing the heavy man over to the place Kyou and the others had gathered all the other large men, and immeaditely began stacking medium-set men on top of them. "I think we should get married."
"There's some more over there, Kyou," she said normally, not even pausing. "See that guy with th-... WHAT?"
Shin laughed; her reactions were still as poor as ever. "I said I think we should get married."
"You... you... this is hardly the place!" she burst.
"Why not? Feelings don't change depending on where you are. Now is as good as anywhere, isn't it? I love you, I've loved you for ten years, I want spend the rest of my life with you... etcetera," he explained coolly. Yankumi had turned a charming red, and the rest of the men pretended to be carrying on oblivious, except they were simply stacking and unstacking the same man over and over. And they were all looking at them both.
"I... I..." she stammered, and Shin reached out for her hand.
"Yankumi... I mean, Kumiko," he said, now slightly on edge as the reality of what he had just done caught up with him. "Will you marry me? Even though," he added humorously, "I'm a Yakuza."
She stared at him for a moment before she burst out laughing. "And whose fault was that?" she hooted. "Of course I will!" Launching herself at him in a running hug, she quite forgot that he was barely strong enough to keep himself up, let alone her too, and they both went crashing to the floor.
Shin groaned as she slammed down her weight over an already cracked rip, and then with a pained laugh took her face in his hands and kissed her. "You're a nightmare," he wheezed.
"You love me," she pointed out, kissing him back gleefully: she was going to get married.
"I do," he confessed with a grin. "In front of all these people, I love you." He glanced to the side and settled on the growing pile of unconscious gangsters, which had now resumed growing. She chuckled, not missing his humour, and got back up on her feet, outstretching an arm to Shin to help him up too.
"Me too," she said sweetly, quiet enough that only he had the privilege of hearing her. "Chop chop, boys!" she squawked deafeningly with the next heartbeat. "There's at least thirty more to get in this pyramid before we can go!" Shin rolled his eyes, then glanced at the woman he was going to marry; he looked over at her family, down at himself, and then he got to work.
As they say, th-th-t-t-t-th-th-that's all, folks!
There's a lot of time progression in this chapter, but I really wanted to get the right kind of age for Shin instead of forcing it all on him too young. This sort of stuff takes time.
I know I'm going to get some questions about other stuff I'm going to be doing, so here's a little lowdown on what I've got planned for the Gokusen fandom.
- I really want to rewrite chapters 1 and 2 of this fic, as they're the oldest and lack continuity, and I will also probably rewrite some of the newer chapters too, 3 and 4 at least.
- I also plan to write one proper lemon for Shin and Yankumi, which will be sort of in the universe of this story but I'll probably stylise it a little more. It'll probably be out before the 18th, depending on whether the manga finishes uploading before then (for inspiration you see).
That's it as far as the rest of this year goes, as when I'm back for the summer I've got a BIG story planned for the Final Fantasy XII fandom.
Leave a little love for Shinkumi ;) Or if there's any loose ends you think I forgot about.